A case in point is what we’re here to talk about today: The Showcase Properties Center for Innovation. We’re really excited about this one.
Situated just a few steps West from the Ocala CEP main offices, the Center is an ambitious project, created with the goal of providing advocacy and creative resources to help businesses and entrepreneurs succeed.
“People have a drive and a vision,” explains Tom James, CEP Director of Executive Engagement. “But maybe they haven’t run a business before, so this is a way for them to connect and network on multiple levels of resources.”
“The Incubator helps them get off the ground with things like office space and creating a business plan. We help with raising capital and hiring employees, and giving guidance about the nuts and bolts of running a business from people who can mentor them. Then eventually they leave the nest and go off on their own, but we’re always available to them when they need us.”
– Tom James, CEP Director of Executive Engagement
The Power Plant Business Incubator
“The Incubator helps them get off the ground with things like office space and creating a business plan,” explains James. “We help with raising capital and hiring employees, and giving guidance about the nuts and bolts of running a business from people who can mentor them. Then eventually they leave the nest and go off on their own, but we’re always available to them when they need us.”
Anyone can apply to the Power Plant Business Incubator, even if they’re not CEP members, and each candidate is selected on a case-by-case basis. It’s like a practical, concentrated court in business administration, working and learning from other business owners who can share their own experiences and knowledge.
The Equine Initiative
Because so much of Ocala’s lifeblood involves horses and horse culture, the Equine Initiative is a key element of the Center. Anybody who lives here knows how important horses are to our economy and development or how integral it is to Ocala’s rapid growth and prosperity; it’s in our motto. We almost literally live and breathe everything horses, and have an entire infrastructure built around training, breeding, selling, and stabling – not to mention the First-Class competitions, events, and venues like HITS, the World Equestrian Center (WEC) and Florida Horse Park.
The Florida thoroughbred industry generates a whopping average $2.6 billion per year in Marion County economic impact, and it’s still growing and developing. After studying revenue, horse farm and training facilities in the area, employment numbers, and tourism/event draw, it made sense for the CEP to focus a program specifically on the industry.
“We created the initiative to help us decide how the equine industry can work with our business community at large, and get those two worlds engaged.” James says.
The partnership and collaboration benefits the entire region, putting a stronger floor under the barn, so to speak. As a company with a foot in both worlds and a team of people whose work involves a lot of cross-pollinating collaboration, Showcase knows firsthand how valuable this is. World champion riders and trainers come to work here, and Derby contenders have been bred and raised in Ocala. WEC is fast becoming a focal point for industry professionals, competitors, and tourists alike. So strengthening and developing ties between the Equine industry and local business makes them both thrive, and gives them the juice to propel forward.
“It’s become more than just a market of local farmers and artisans, or craftspeople and food trucks.” James marvels. “There’s a good 5,000 people or more that come each Saturday. It’s incredible what she’s done with that.”
The Market has grown to include multiple events at the pavilion on any given days or nights of the week, such as the Equine Industry Expo, holiday events such as Mardi Gras, and Business After Hours. It is a vital part of the CEP’s downtown business expansion, helping vendors make the leap from the market to storefront businesses and the Market itself turning a modest profit within two years after Dawn took over. It’s developed into a vital force for small business owners and entrepreneurs, and a vibrant weekend destination for locals and day-trippers alike.
Showcase Properties and Ocala CEP will be having an official Ribbon Cutting ceremony to commemorate our sponsorship of the Showcase Properties Center for Innovation on April 12 at 2:30 PM. If you’re in the neighborhood, we’d love to see you stop by for a while and take a look around. We’re extremely excited to be involved in this amazing project, whose goals and mission align with our own so significantly.
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